News

Reginald

Reginald

“Because of the accident, I was taking 7 meds a day and needed to use a cane to walk. I had to leave my job. The other driver admitted to causing the accident – yet I never got compensated. I tried to reach out to my employer about this but he wouldn’t answer my calls.”

Anna

Anna

“Fighting for people matters. We have to claw, sweat, and bleed for the people around us. We need to put ourselves out there and protect each other, because if not, who else will?”

Anca

Anca

“In every elderly client, I see my own parents and grandparents. I get to learn about their lives and their families. In many ways, Bayview is similar to my home in Romania: access to legal aid is limited, and if we don’t help, no one else will.”

Charlene

Charlene

One time, he said he was going to pick her up from school but he never came. I had to stop what I doing and rush to get her. It was terrifying, learning that my young daughter had been left all alone. I worried for her safety.

Thea

Thea

“I saw how access to legal help can change someone’s life and lift them out of poverty. It was then that I realized I wanted to go into public interest law.”

Belinda

Belinda

“Since childhood, I’ve seen the barriers that keep people from what’s rightfully theirs. Now I get to help these people fight back.”

Zoe

Zoe

“We went outside our roles as attorneys and just interacted with our clients as human beings.”

Omar

Omar

I saw a lot of poverty and economic depression growing up in Ohio. Now that I am a lawyer, I’m able to see how much this experience has influenced me. I want to use my law degree to help low-income communities and to ensure that people, like my clients, get the treatment they deserve.

Hilary

Hilary

To me, it’s all about using my education and experiences to make the law work for everyone. That San Francisco was and remains very segregated has always bothered me. I want to fight this and protect underserved communities. I’ve always wanted to go into social justice work, and that’s where I want to stay.

Zulaika

Zulaika

“One day my landlord told me that she was selling the building. When the new owners came, they said my kids and I had to leave. They wanted to kick me out of my own home. I was lost on what to do: I didn’t want to move, but I didn’t want an eviction on my record, especially when I had done nothing wrong.”

Anne

Anne

Open Door Legal doesn’t help the community as outsiders; they’re integrated into the community. They have shown me what it means to be empathetic and understanding. I’m able to see what it looks like to treat people as humans and to serve, respect, and represent people even though they may not have a ton of money or power.

CITATIONS

1. American University, Key Studies and Data About How Legal Aid Improves Housing Outcomes https://www.american.edu/spa/jpo/toolkit/upload/housing-7-30-19.pdf

2. George Washington Law School, In Pursuit of Justice? Case Outcomes and the Delivery of Unbundled Legal Services https://scholarship.law.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi

Ever since childhood, our co-founder Adrian has been dedicated to reducing poverty.

He studied systemic poverty in college and went to work in the field for a few years. Eventually, he had a thesis that legal aid was the most cost-effective way to address poverty in America. He wrote up a business plan and used it to apply to law school. 

The idea was to create the country’s first system of universal access to civil legal representation that ensures everyone can obtain timely, competent legal help for any legal issue, regardless of ability to pay. That had never been done before in the history of the United States.

In law school, he met Virginia, our Programs Director. Together, they co-founded the organization, two weeks after Adrian passed the bar.

When we opened we put a sign in the window, and with just that marketing and almost no other outreach we were overwhelmed with requests for help from people with good cases who had been turned away everywhere else.

Our first year we had revenue of $35,000. We would hand shred documents because a shredder was too expensive. Despite the financial challenges, we were able to work on over 280 cases in everything from housing law to family law to consumer law in the first year alone.

The hours were extreme, the pay was low, and the learning curve was steep. Still, we persisted. We knew that almost everyone we helped was not able to receive services anywhere else. Eventually, we attracted the interest of funders. We tripled our revenue for several years in a row. In 2015, we won the Bay Area Google Impact Challenge, which enabled us to expand even more. In 2019, we secured additional funding from the city that allowed us to open two new centers in the Excelsior and Western Addition.

As of 2020, our staff has grown to 27 full-time employees. We’ve shown that universal access is possible. Now, we plan to scale city-wide, make San Francisco the first city in the country’s history to have universal access to legal help, and become a model for national replication.